At the D-8 conference in 2010, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs likened personal computers to trucks, which were more needed in an agrarian nation. As the nation progressed and people began populating urban centers, cars, which are far less powerful but more stylish and affordable, grew in popularity. Trucks were still around, but the general public bought cars.
Jobs sees personal computers becoming much more specialized in their functions and less prolific as people move on to tablets, whether its the iPad or other brands. That is not to say PCs will be replaced by tablets anytime soon, because they are vastly different devices with each offering its own distinct capabilities.
Tablets allow people to work with technology in a much more casual way. The straightforward nature of the device seems to change the notion of work while using it.
Interaction is less mechanical and work becomes more fun.
Lying down on a couch while shuffling numbers on a spreadsheet looks far less formal than sitting in front of the computer doing the exact same thing.
However, the Baird and Co. survey released last week showed that existing consumers, unsurprisingly, are still beholden to personal computers. After all, today’s tablets have been around for less than two years, whereas the PC has been around for decades.
It seems that the arrival of the iPad and other tablets may give reason for the general consumer to usher in a different behavior.
People could be working on projects on their more powerful desktops at home or at work, and present that work elsewhere, on their tablets. The role of the notebook as a presentation machine may be dwindling.
An AdMob survey in April of this year discovered that tablet use (or more precisely iPad use, since it controls more than 80 percent of the tablet market) is more evident at home, with 82 percent of the 1500 surveyed saying they used tablets at home.
Gaming (82 percent), search (78 percent) and email (74 percent) topped the list of things people do with their tablets. Between 46 to 51 percent of the respondents said they enjoy music, video, and reading on their tablets. Forty-three percent of those surveyed claimed they spent more time on tablets than on desktops or notebook computers.
But only 28 percent say tablets are their primary computers. Productivity tasks did not even make the top five activities on tablets.
This reveals that the tablet may well be the ultimate couch computer. While the general public are comfortable with gaming and internet activities away from their computers, they still rely on them for more formal work projects. This represents the opportunity for desktop computers to maintain their relevance.
Desktop computers have always offered better performance and capabilities over notebooks (or laptops), but demand for portability has made notebooks more appealing. With tablets entering the scene offering longer battery life, more portability and less weight for a fraction of the cost, it takes away the major appeal of notebooks. Given the results of the AdMob survey however, the majority of tablets stay at home.
While portability is the top reason consumers purchase tablets, the survey shows that tablets don’t get out much. Perhaps the fact that tablets let people perform key activities away from desks and not necessarily outdoors is what makes them so attractive.
There are however DJs and designers doing their work and carrying it on iPads instead of notebooks, leaving their primary machines tethered to desks. Notebooks might allow people to work from multiple locations, but tablets are freeing people from their desks.
A recent GfK survey showed that although overall desktop purchases have gone down, the all-in-one desktop category had grown as the average price had come down from US$1250 to $1000. Other, more traditional desktops can cost far less than that.
The cost of one high performance notebook is between $1600 to $2000. This is roughly the same as an equal or better performance desktop computer, plus one or two tablets or one light-powered notebook. There is a good chance that given the same budget, many consumers (especially families) will opt for one desktop or central computer with several tablets.
PCs may eventually become like trucks, but for the moment, the desktop computer is the family van.